The Art of Doing Business Differently

Kansas City has great businesses and great artists. The magic happens when you combine the two. Three businesses stand out for making their business a community enriching art form — Missouri Bank, Eldorado Architects, and Hufft Projects. Each is as art centric as it is business savvy and all three are finalists for ArtsKC’s Creative Impact award. ArtsKC will announce the honoree at its 13th annual award luncheon on Feb. 25, 2016.

What are these three businesses doing that’s so artistically excellent?

Missouri Bank Banks on Artists

Missouri Bank chose to make artists a client focus and a meaningful part of its corporate culture since J. Thomas Burcham purchased the bank in 1984.  According to Julie Nelson Meers, senior vice president of Missouri Bank, her bank has always focused on being a conduit for artists to succeed. From offering guest walls for local artists to show their work, to working closely with individual artists, to the six-week long “Business Edge” that helps artists and other business owners grow their businesses, Missouri Bank is truly invested in artists.

Missouri Bank prides itself in being a bank for the people that care about relationship, partnership and community. That community feel is apparent when you walk in the door (dogs welcome) and are greeted by a mobanker – there are no managers, tellers or hierarchy. Employees come from a wide range of interesting and diverse backgrounds and are chosen not only for their expertise in banking, but also based on their “culture fit” that embraces the arts, embraces community and embrace keeping money in the community.  In addition to mobankers with more traditional banking backgrounds, you might find yourself opening an account with a former Peace Corps volunteer, tattoo artist or an Apple genius.  You might also meet one of the several professional musicians or part time entrepreneurs who help make up the Mo Bank team.

Mo Bank’s Crossroads bank features four rotating arts billboards and an artist in residence program where customers have a chance to witness the artist’s creative process. If you don’t leave the bank inspired to “be the difference,” Mo Bank’s motto, you’ve probably conducted business in one of its four bank buildings blindfolded.

Hufft Projects Makes Tactile Masterpieces

After listening intently to its customers, Hufft likes to get its hands dirty when it fabricates custom designs from wood, steel or whatever material is deemed ideal to create a functional piece of art for its clients. Owners Matthew & Jesse Hufft carved a design niche in 2005 by bridging the gap between trades, technology and art to create beautiful and enduring designs.

Since then the firm has taken on 300 architectural, fabrication and construction projects with budgets as high as $60 million. The firm’s work has been featured in Metropolitan Home, Interior Design, Architectural Record, to name a few, and the list of awards they’ve won are as long as the publication lists that have covered them.

Hufft takes pride in keeping a multidisciplinary staff at the drawing board, including architects, artists, designers, and craftsmen.

“We test the way a surface feels to the touch, the way a finish reflects light,” says CEO Jesse Hufft. “No detail is too small because we are making objects our clients interact with day in day out.”

Arts are Part of the DNA at El Dorado Inc.

You can find El Dorado’s creative thumbprint on dozens of projects throughout Kansas City, including the furniture in Missouri Bank’s Crossroad’s lobby, the custom furniture in the Bloch building expansion at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and soon to be in the 125-room boutique hotel in the Crossroads.

El Dorado Owner David Dowell claims arts were part of El Dorado’s DNA since it opened shop in 1996. “We’re equal parts art gallery, steel fabrication shop, and architecture firm,” says Dowell. Because the arts are embedded in the work Ed Dorado produces, it’s not surprising to learn that many of its employees are trained in ceramics, sculpture, photography, graphic design and industrial design.

The Botwin Building project was designed to accommodate small local businesses while introducing accessible and sustainable approaches at a neighborhood scale. El Dorado collaborated with Anne Lindberg and featured her art installation, “Slips and Shifts,” into the design. Her artwork doubles as a sun screening device for the upper level glazing system.

El Dorado loves working with artists to enhance the beauty and functionality of its work. Lindberg used a series of her parallel line drawings in another El Dorado project, in which her graphite parallel series enhances upper panels of glass in the form of dual layer ceramic fritting printed on 52 window panels.

With the track record and artistic influence these three firms have had on the Kansas City metro and beyond, it’s easy to see why each is a finalist for the Creative Impact Award. Which firm gets your vote?

Join us Feb. 25, 2015 at Bartle Hall to celebrate each firm’s contribution to the arts.

The above article highlights Kansas City’s three Creative Impact finalists that are vying for yet another well-deserved award at the Feb. 25 ArtsKC Awards Luncheon. Tickets and details at www.ArtsKC.org/awards.

–Brenda Clevenger

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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